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Business executive and UBC MBA alumnus Patrick Nangle turned heads this summer when he left his position as President and CEO of Purolator—a $1.6 billion organization—to lead Modo, a local Vancouver car share co-op with an annual budget of just $10 million. But, Nangle’s decision was ultimately based on his desire to use his business expertise to address a societal need.

 

Later this month Nangle will speak at an event hosted by UBC Sauder’s Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics and moderated by Vancity CEO Tamara Vrooman, where he will discuss the importance of responsible leadership and business innovation. We sat down with Nangle to get his perspective on these issues, and to learn more about the values-driven decision behind his move to Modo.

 
In business, there seems to be a perception that executives should work their way up to larger and more recognizable brands in order to be considered successful. What are the benefits of doing the opposite?  
 

There are many definitions of career success. If you frame success in terms of material rewards and recognition, then yes, a large and recognizable company can provide that. But I think a better lens is to base success on the value you create for all your stakeholders—not only shareholders but also customers, employees, business partners, the community and, of course, your family.

I’ve worked in both large and small organizations, and I know from personal experience that as you climb the hierarchy in a corporation, you become progressively further removed from your customers and products. At Modo, I’m seeking to take the skills, processes and systems I’ve learned at various large companies and marry them with the nimbler decision making of a much smaller organization. For me, it’s refreshing to become more hands-on as I work to help Modo become more competitive in the marketplace.

Why should ethics and responsible leadership form an integral part of business strategy?
 

Business leaders need to understand that sustained long-term relations are based on trust—you only have to look at the behaviour of the tobacco and sugar industries to see how badly a reputation can be damaged when trust is lost. Compensation schemes and self-interest are not the only ways to influence decision-making—it can also be influenced by the desire to make a difference and to do the right thing.

The world today is very different in that regard—thanks to social media, people are better informed about which companies are truly ethical, authentic and aligned to their own values. Although there’s a limit to the premium people will pay to deal with companies that are ethical, local and that contribute to the community, people are increasingly choosing companies they can trust.

Why is a co-op an example of business innovation?
 

In a large corporation, decisions revolve around the need to make a profit. The need for ever-increasing profitability doesn’t carry nearly the same weight at a co-op. Instead, co-ops focus value creation squarely on the users of their products and services. I’m new to the co-op world, but already I see it’s a fascinating business model. As a CEO, I’m directly responsible to the people who use Modo’s services, with no third-party group of shareholders between us. That fact alone significantly influences decision-making, including the nature of investment in the business. Many co-ops are social enterprises and attach high value to addressing societal needs in a way that is closely aligned to their members’ values. Ultimately, the co-op business model allows executives to not only produce a good product and earn a fair profit but to also do good at the same time.